Flexibility. It is the key on this mission. Without it, there would only be frustration and confusion. Flexibility to wait. Flexibility to change locations. Flexibility to eat at regulated times. Flexibility in figuring out how 40-50 women share two showers and two toilets. Flexibility to change plans very quickly. Flexibility to enjoy a nice cushy Hilton Hotel bed instead of a tiny hard rack on the ship! Yep, you read that right!
We all gathered at the Honduran airport to start our health education and humanitarian assistance mission with Project HOPE and the U.S. Navy. We were meant to take the Navy CH46E Seanight helicopter (The Mighty Battle Phrog) to the USS Iwo Jima where she was anchored in Guatemala. The bridge to Guatemala was washed out and flying was the only way to get to the ship. This was exciting for us, but we all wondered how hard it was for the locals who need that bridge to make a living and survive. We will never really know, but can only imagine.
As we waited and sweated for several hours for a storm to pass, we had a chance to get to know each other a little bit and stretch our legs. Eventually, the airmen took us through the Honduras security and got us out to their helicopter. We were instructed on emergency procedures while we were handed a quick-inflate flotation device and a helmet with safety goggles. With nervous excitement, we loaded up onto the bird and buckled in.
It was a short trip.
There was a minor mechanical issue and with the clouds over the mountains, the captain chose not to take the risk of flying over the mountains and we circled back to the airport. After a few tests, it was decided that we needed to stay for the night. Flexibility.
Oh no! We had to go to the Hilton! It was so nice to get showered and sleep in a cushy bed with pillows that I personally wished I could fit one in my suitcase. (Side note here: If anyone is allergic to wool bring your own blanket, if allergic to feathers, bring your own pillow.) There were just a few jealous people onboard the ship when they heard about our “horrible” predicament.
The next morning we were able to fly out, but with a bit of a change from the day before. The ship had pulled anchor and was underway to Nicaragua. So we landed on a moving ship, just as a heavy rain started to fall.
Arriving on board! Mission accomplished.
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